#28ChineseMemories Day 5: Sunday Lunch at Canton

From April 2011: Getting ready to go work at Canton.
From April 2011: Getting ready to go work at Canton.

My parents owned a Chinese restaurant named Canton (named after the region my parents grew up in in China, now known as Guangdong) in our little town of Radford for about thirty years. Growing up, I knew that my relatives and my older siblings helped out at the restaurant while my grandparents took care of me, my brother Adam, and our younger cousins.

The first time I was exposed to Sunday lunchtime at Canton was in grade school, after attending Sunday school with my siblings. We were dropped off at the restaurant and sat in the kitchen, watching in amazement as our dad multi-tasked, directing orders to employees and cooking at lightning speed for both eat-in and take-out orders. Meanwhile, our mom ran around helping out with any frying needs and packing up the takeout orders meticulously, checking off each item on the takeout menus.

As I grew up and got to help out more at the restaurant, I got to experience this organized chaos a lot more, and found it both mesmerizing and frustrating: for instance, in the dining area, it was also chaotic, with many locals lining up outside the door waiting to be seated. Some parties arrived with eight or more people, expecting there to be a table ready for them, despite the fact that none of them called in reservations. I’d go running into the back of the dining area, scooting tables together haphazardly and apologizing profusely to the waiting parties.

Considering the lunch options were limited in town, we got most of the locals in on Sundays, and the big rush really only occurred between 11:30am and 1pm; the rest of Sunday after that was pretty slow.

Looking back, I am amazed that we did as much business as we did, especially with the limited staff on-hand. Most of the credit goes to my parents though, for being able to still work efficiently under pressure.